Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Create Magazine Interview

Happy to share an interview I did with Ekaterina Popova, a Philly based painter and founder of Create Magazine.  It's a beautiful publication and I'm thrilled to see it in print.  They have a very active Instagram but also have issues available for purchase here.

Here is the full transcript at a legible size:

Tell me about yourself. Were you always interested in becoming an artist? What has your creative journey been like so far?

I think I have that typical, boring story of a painter which is I always liked to draw and always felt like it was the thing I was good at. But I think a lot of people love to draw as kids, I’ve just been fortunate enough and stubborn enough for it to keep working out.  I get a lot of satisfaction out of creating something tangible though, I think graphic design would be a much harder job for me than something like tailoring. I’ve always found ways to work with my hands, I love to cook and rehab furniture and stuff like that.  

I went to Penn State for undergrad which was a good program, I had a great experience on a semester abroad in Florence at a tiny art school too during that time.  And that made me really commit to doing my MFA at an art school, which led to PAFA. I wanted to be in Philly, I’ve always found it an interesting place to live, and a place that is affordable.  So I stayed and after a few years I found a great shared studio space in a quiet building and have been there for 3 ½ years now. This is the first year since my MFA in 2011 that I am not teaching alongside my practice.  I am in the studio four days a week now working towards my show at Nancy Margolis in April.

What are your paintings about?

I hope my work is a real, tender accounting of my particular visual life.  The paintings can be inventive and distorted, as I often work from memory and through process, but I want them to carry resonance of my experience, which happens to be as a painter, woman, mother.  I am influenced by the work of painters of intimacy and autobiography like Bonnard, Porter, Hockney.  But I think by the very virtue of being a woman painting ‘the domestic’, ‘the intimate’, the ‘everyday’ there is a slightly different assumption there.  I want to take that expectation and not subvert it, but kind of nudge it open a bit for the multifaceted, nuanced, difficult, anxious, lonely way it can feel.  So I’m not making a statement by painting myself pregnant or nursing or my husband or child, I am just trying to add my perspective as authentically as I can. 

I am also very interested in the relationship of efficiency and complexity.  Meaning, I like to make paintings that feel approachable and simple, I am mindful of having careful, purposeful marks and decisions.  But I am trying to see how much complexity can be revealed after that initial read.  I think this way of working speaks especially well to my content.  Everyone feels they contain multitudes, but ‘mother’ may be the most flattening of all titles. To make a still image, a painting, which contains these suspended layers feels like an equal and appropriate challenge.

How has your work evolved over the years? What was your early work like?

I’ve always liked to paint the tangible things around me – food, people, objects.  I really always felt I was terrible at large spaces and landscapes.  Since I was little that was not of interest for me. I like things that hold some kind of human scale and resonance for the most part.  

The thing that has shifted the most is as I started working seriously in high school and college I felt like I could no longer work from memory or imagination.  I got obsessed with the anatomical rightness of things and relied on working from life or photos.  Looking back that seems fairly normal, I was trying to get a grip on rendering, but it didn’t feel inventive enough, it got tedious.  Once I got to the point where I felt I could render anything, then came the real investigation as to what and why and more importantly, giving myself permission to let that be open ended.  I think the most important thing I have consistently done since then to help my work evolve is look at other work, it’s a way to grant yourself that permission to experiment.  

What advice would you give emerging artists in regards to taking creative risks and finding their voice?

I would say the answers are in the paint.  I used to sit in my studio and bite my nails, racking my brain for an idea that would give me a justifiable reason to paint.  But it’s kind of like brainstorming for writing where you need to just let things flow and then judge them later.  The best thing I found to do is use any impulse for a painting, whether it’s a color combination on a restaurant placemat or a desire to make a copy of a famous work in the museum.  Trying things as far out as can be imagined helped me realize what I wanted to paint by working backwards.  Meaning, I figured out what I never wanted to do again, whether because I found it boring or unsatisfying and that took off pressure of ‘figuring out’ what my work was about.

What are you currently excited about in your studio practice?

Infrastructure! I spent the last month installing new racks in the studio and organizing my work both physically and on an external harddrive.  And I just finished cradling these 20 new paintings and making the mouldings for their frames. So I’m feeling productive, even when the painting is tough and slow.  

What's coming up next for you?
I have a solo exhibition at Nancy Margolis Gallery in Chelsea, opening April 18, 2019.  

*All images are new work which will be on view in this upcoming show.


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